In decades past, platforming games ruled the scene. Everyone wanted to make their own Super Mario Bros. or Mega Man, and it feels like every other indie game on the scene has platforming elements. At this point, functional platforming has become a given. Unfortunately, A Song in the Void provides very little beyond that. It makes a middling first impression as Armogaste’s first game on Steam.
To set the stage, A Song in the Void is a pretty simple first-person platformer “set in a world where everything is tied to the music.” You can run, walk, and jump. By standing near something, you automatically interact with it or collect it. When all's said and done, it takes six or seven hours to complete your journey through this minimalist platformer.
Minimal Design, Maximum Bland
If you’ve seen any screenshots of A Song in the Void, you’ll immediately notice the simplified art style. The game’s environments are fairly polygonal, and at first, I found it charming. The local flora and fauna are all composed of sharp-edged 3D shapes, and you’ll immediately know what the game is trying to convey. Each of the five main locales stands out from one another thanks to their unique designs, such as sky islands and murky swamplands.
Within these five islands, there are thirty-eight smaller levels, each posing small platforming challenges. It essentially boils down to collecting some modules (which look like striped spheres) so you can collect power cores (which look like diamonds). You can also collect both resources out in the five overworlds, where modules help terraform the planet. In both cases, power cores are used to fuel your ship so you can crash land on the next island.
Frankly, the design of each level gets bland pretty quickly, both in terms of gameplay and aesthetic. After seeing the same untextured rectangular prism with beveled edges for the first ten levels, it loses its luster pretty quickly. The basic style doesn’t at all motivate you to collect modules to collect power cores over and over again, especially considering the core gameplay never changes. You run and jump, avoiding obstacles or pits. The shape of the obstacles may change, or the texture of the pits may differ, but it all boils down to the same thing all the way to the bitter end.
A Platformer With Subpar Platforming
Honestly, it's not just the visuals or game design that frustrate me. The platforms you step on in A Song in the Void do very little to work with the player. They rarely move at a consistent, smooth pace. Instead, nearly every platform moves in an arrhythmic staccato style. At one point, they’re in position one. A few seconds pass, and they immediately move to position two. Another few seconds pass (sometimes not the same number of seconds) and it moves to position three. This continues until it finishes a cycle. The distances between each position are also erratic, making it hard to calculate any jump you make. Almost every moving surface feels completely unpredictable, which is the last feeling you want to have in a platformer.
That unpredictable nature is quickly followed by waiting, often not the good kind of waiting. Platformers often have their moving parts set to a cycle. Even the ones that look insanely difficult often have an optimal path, where everything sets in place at just the right time. You can leap from one platform from the next, and if you fall out of rhythm, you simply wait for the next cycle. Some segments in A Song in the Void fit that bill, but many others have you waiting simply for the sake of it. You’ll leap onto a surface, get ready for the next one to approach, and then watch it hang there for a few more seconds, unmoving. It feels like a hiccup in the system and completely pulls you out of any state of flow you were in.
Additionally, the field of view and perspective don’t do anything to help players. Everything is in first-person, and it doesn’t show you your character’s body when you look down. You’re just a floating camera, and the space five feet below you is somehow affected by gravity. On top of having no visually discernible body, your character casts no shadow. This makes it especially difficult to position yourself on tight platforms.
A Forced Narrative to Tie it All Together
A Song in the Void tasks you with terraforming a new planet. In this universe, music has a powerful effect on the world. By activating more modules, you affect the planet’s Songstream. The soundtrack reflects this pretty well, with each part of a song coming in more clearly with each module. Via radio, a character, only known as Feor Darkl, hacks into your matrix, encouraging you to terraform the planet. However, an AI called Hope tries to stop you, calling you a “rogue element.”
The narrative culminates in a binary choice that feels pretty unearned, especially considering how the gameplay poorly conveys the story. In the first island, modules lower the sea level, creating more land. But in the second island, you slowly turn a desert into a tundra, which seems less than ideal for prosperous civilization. In the third island, every level you complete turns some floating islands into barren wastelands devoid of flora. Despite what the narrative tells you, it doesn’t quite feel like your actions reflect the story beats.
A Song in the Void might best be described as a walking simulator masquerading as a platformer, which is a shame because it doesn’t even hold up as a walking simulator. Armogaste’s history of making mobile games shows, considering the general simplicity of the title’s execution. There are a lot of concepts that could shine a lot brighter if given more time to develop. Unfortunately, this platformer fails to really capture you with its narrative, middling gameplay, or bland aesthetic.
TechRaptor reviewed A Song in the Void on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
- Solid Sountrack
- Bland, Minimalist Aesthetic
- Terribly Unpredictable Platform Design
- Stagnant Gameplay Throughout